Omnia Gourmet by Chef Silvena | Decadence, Deliciousness & A Lot of Expectations!

Posted on June 13, 2014

21


Omnia Gourmet by Silvena in Al Souq,  Fishing Harbour, Jumeirah 2Everybody in Dubai knows celebrity chef Silvena Rowe right now. Solving weekly kitchen problems as the Domestic Diva in the popular Friday Magazine and doling out scrumptious exotic-do-able-at-home recipes, she is probably the only resident celebrity chef in Dubai. She is also the only celebrity chef on my speed dial. I have been following her journey in the UAE since last year when I got the first phone from her, that took me to Capital Club that very night to experience her magic. Earlier this year, I had tasted the exclusive ‘Taste of Organic Arabia’ three course meal featuring 98% local organic produce at her pop-up restaurant at the Dubai Food Carnival. I have always been bowled over by her energy, her assertive confidence (‘you cannot imagine the Harees I cook’, or ‘nobody has ever done this kind of a menu before’ or ‘I intend to bring in Michelin to Dubai with my Omnia by Sylvena’), her infectious passion, her creativity and all her conscious efforts in sourcing ingredients organically and locally to create healthy and delicious food. I have been waiting all this while to see where she opens her restaurant, rather in which hotel, and have often wondered why it’s been taking her so long. I had anticipated nothing less than magic. But never had I imagined that it is not a single restaurant that’s been brewing up in her mind but an entire Souq with 4 different restaurants – Omnia Gourmet being her signature deli cum cafe under the main umbrella of Omnia by Silvena, her high-end, fine dining Middle Eastern restaurant in Downtown Boulevard. The other 3 restaurants in the Souq – Indian, Lebanese and a seafood restaurant – however, will not be under her creations.Al Souq in the Fishing Harbour, Jumeirah 1Soft cushions, cozy seatings in Omnia Gourmet by Silvena Hand painted walls in Omnia Gourmet by Silvena A warm and cozy interior in Omnia Gourmet by Silvena An intricately hand painted wall complimenting the hand crafted bottlesCamelchino to start our converation

I dropped into Omnia Gourmet last week to chat with Silvena. In the darkness whatever I could see or imagine as she talked about her grand master-plan, I was blown away. She had a lot of guests that night, to whom she was introducing her menu and I ended up tasting some of her desserts (a few of them being raw, sugar-free, fat-free, gluten-free as well as vegan and paleo). I still recall the Chocolate Ganache Tart – so rich and so decadent, and if I believe in the ingredients that Silvena has put into her healthy range of desserts, I should be making them my next diet mantra! Yesterday, I was there again. The restaurant is still going through the final touches, and although it is open to guests and her desserts look stunning along with the salads as they sit pretty on large intricate trays, I will still give some settling-down time (as of yesterday, pictures were still being drilled onto the walls, the acoustics are yet to be sorted out, the fountain hasn’t yet started running, and plants that will be overflowing from the ceiling haven’t yet arrived). I did end up tasting the Chocolate Ganache once again (what a waste of tummy space when I could have tasted another dessert!) and a few other dishes from her Omnia Gourmet menu (Avocado, Sugar Snaps and organic Chickpeas in Za’atar Pesto dressing and Chia seeds, Heritage Tomatoes and Emirati Burrata with Pomegranate and Sumac dressing, and the Chicken Pumpkin in Coconut & Bzar broth). My foodie friend Sally, the author of My Custard Pie, joined us a bit later. Her writings focus on ‘honest food, fresh ingredients’, and it would be interesting to hear what she thinks of Silvena’s food. All I can say right now is, there is a lot of expectations from Silvena.Chatting with celebrity chef Silvena RoweChatting with Silvena (a continuation of our conversation from the last week) about Omnia, the super healthy delicious menu and what’s special in the coming holy month of Ramadan…

Tell us about Omnia.What does the word mean?

Omnia means ‘wish’. So, Omnia by Silvena means ‘wishes by Silvena’.

What makes the Omnia menu special and different?

Located in the Downtown Boulevard, Omnia by Silvena is going to be my jewel where one can expect the most refined form of local cuisine. Omnia Gourmet, on the other hand, is a neighborhood deli cum cafe, although the menu is prepared by the expert team of Omnia by Silvena. Dubai has got a lot of international restaurants, great chefs and many new dining concepts but what interests me is creating food that is super healthy . This is missing in the market and Omnia Gourmet is going to fill in for that. In my food, I am using super foods like Chia Seeds, Goji Berries, Acai powder, Lucuma powder, Maca powder, Maqui powder, Hemp Seeds, Pomegranate powder. The desserts are delicious, decadent, voluptuous and yes, super healthy. For example, the Chocolate Ganache Tart with Maca powder dust. It is raw, gluten free, sugar free, paleo and vegan. Or say, my Beauty Bliss ‘Bon-bons’ - these super food balls have Goji berries and have different coatings like Quinoa or the Camu Camu Powder. I have created almost 9 desserts which are raw, gluten free, sugar free and dairy free – Raspberry and Chocolate Brownie, Banana and Peanut Butter Chia Pudding with goji berries, Tahini superfood truffles, Cocoa and Cashew Nut Butter Tart with Acai powder dust, Carrot cake with lime Chantilly, Cashew Cheesecake with fresh berries, Cashew and lemon cheesecake and more. And of course, you will have some usual sugar suspects – the Battenburg Cake, Dubai Lace (with Chocolate and Hazelnut butter), Cupcakes, my special velvety Raspberry Cheesecake which I won in BBC’s Country Show Cook Off {recipe here}.

Apart from healthy Desserts, what other healthy offerings can one expect in Omnia Gourmet?

Everything in Omnia Gourmet is healthy but in an elevated form. The salads are organic and have ingredients that have been sourced locally, as much as possible. It is a combination of crisp freshness, where the spices play with each other to lend richness to the taste. I don’t use salt at all and my Chef had to really adapt to that. The Avocado Salad - it is one of my signature dishes and I have combined it with Sugar Snaps and organic Chick Peas. I have elevated it by using the local spice Za’tar in Pesto dressing and have used super foods like Chia seeds. Grilled Chicken Kofta is another signature dish here. There is no oil in it and I have tried to give some richness to the dish by combining it with sautéed Spinach, mashed Sweet Potato mash with a Coriander Salsa, the spicy red Harissa (a Maghrebian hot Chili pepper paste) and Cumin Labneh (strained yogurt very popular locally). Look at the Breakfast menu – apart from the usual Eggs Benedict with smoked Salmon or the Eggs Florentine with Truffle Hollaindaise (needless to say organic eggs), it will also have some super healthy choices like Coconut and Chia Seeds with Almond, Lucuma powder and Goji Berries crumble or the Muesli with shredded Coconut and home made Almond milk and Acai powder. The Chia porridge is going to be superloaded with super foods – and these are kind of stuff that I have really not come across in Dubai (maybe in Melbourne). And I can tell you that the Shakshuka made with sweet red peppers, cherry tomatoes and creamy Feta, is going to be one of the best Shakshukas that you will come across (adding another chapter to the Shakshuka controversy here – this restaurant claims to have the recipe to the original Shakshuka in Dubai!)

Tell us more about your obsession with local sourcing and organic ingredients.

You are what you eat. If I am excercising so much, why do I want to put unhealthy food into my body? Here, in the UAE, obesity is a rising problem along with all the various illnesses that is triggered off by it. So my entire focus is on the ingredients that go into each dish. I try to source everything locally and use organic products as much as possible – organic eggs and chicken are sourced locally and they are very good. I regular visit the local fish markets, so I know the suppliers from where I buy my fish. I will be having Farmers’ Market in this Souq, bringing in the local farmers from where I source my fresh produce. This would also lead to consistency in their supply. In Omnia By Silvena, I will have to have make a few exceptions – for example, the Black Cod – it is not available in the markets here. But at the same time I will have to keep certain items in my menu there.

So what is Omnia Slim?

That is a range of healthy desserts that I have prepared for the likes of Spinneys and Waitrose, and my tagline is ‘Slim as you Sin’! The sweetness of these desserts come from natural ingredients like Maple syrup and Dates. They are loaded with super foods as well.

Tell us about Omnia by Sylvena. Is it going to be blingy?

Oh yes, Omnia by Silvena is what Dubai is – it’s going to be stunning with a lot of glitz, glamour and club image of Dubai and at the same time it will have the grunge of Al Qouz. The food here is going to be all about form and finesse. Nobody has ever taken Emirati cuisine to the level that I am hoping Omnia by Silvena would take. Yes, it will not be a licensed restaurant but then I don’t think it’s going to matter. This is not French cuisine that has to be paired with wine. Although I have been doing modern Middle Eastern cuisine all these years (due to my Turkish and Ottoman heritage), now I have learnt Emirati cuisine and want to bring that out to the Dubai diner in a glamorous way. Omnia by Silvena is going to be a place to celebrate Emirati and Arabic culture.

What is the essence of Ramadan to you? What are the special Ramadan plans for Omnia?

Growing up in Bulgaria under the communist regime, I have got used to covering myself while praying. Last year was my first Ramadan in Dubai, and I really love being here. I still haven’t got used to praying openly. I do fast during Ramadan and I feel that people put on a lot of weight during Ramadan because of the elaborate Iftars that are popular around town. While last year, I had created elaborate Iftar buffets (in H Hotel), this year I am creating the concept – Slimming Ramadan. Everyday, Omnia Gourmet would open up by 3 pm during Ramadan and will take in orders by telephone. One can come in before the Iftar and pick up their specially prepared Ramadan boxes and take them home. All these boxes will have healthy, nutritious salads and meals. Omnia by Sivena will open during Ramadan and I am planning to create an Iftar offering there will be unforgettable.

Note: The above conversation is adapted from our original conversation which took place over two seatings and was interspersed with many personal chit-chat.
My lunch - Salad and Soup

Silvena and Sally, author of My Custard Pie

Silvena and Sally, author of My Custard Pie

Healthy Salads made with seasonal and locally sourced ingredients

Avacado, Sugar Snaps and organic Chickpeas in Za’atar Pesto dressing & Chia Seeds (green in colour); Heritage Tomatoes, Emirati Burrata with Pomegranate & Sumac dressing (to the left)

Chicken and Pumpkin in Coconut & Bzar broth

Chicken and Pumpkin in Coconut & Bzar broth

Grilled Chicken Kofta

Grilled Chicken Kofta , sautéed Spinach, Sweet Potato mash with Coriander Salsa verde; Red Harissa; Cumin Labneh

Chef Kurtis served me his favourites from Silvena’s signature dishes – the Chicken Koftas (above). Sadly, I had to give it a miss this time along with the many other dishes lining up the counter (below). I know that I will be coming back soon once the place is up and running perfectly – I loved the warm non-restaurant like interiors with big comfy sofas, huge cushions, coffee tables and mosaiced tiles. The framed butterflies look beautiful against the flower printed cushions and the hand painted green walls with flowers and peacocks. I have one reservation here – I am a believer in Feng Shui and although images of butterflies have a positive connotation in bringing in creative energy in one’s life, I am slightly uncomfortable with these framed artworks with real butterflies! Oh ignore this, and good wishes to you Silvena!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

Disclaimer: While you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from this post. Please note that this blog is not a sponsored blog and the subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. You can catch my daily travel and food journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Heritage Tomatoes, Emirati Burrata with Pomegranate & Sumac dressing

Heritage Tomatoes, Emirati Burrata with Pomegranate & Sumac dressing

Organic quinoa with roasted sweet red peppers and onion jam

Organic Quinoa with roasted sweet red Peppers and Onion jam

Chicken and Pumpkin in Coconut & Bzar broth

Chicken and Pumpkin in Coconut & Bzar broth

Green Salad with Goats' Cheese

Green Salad with Goats’ Cheese

Roast Summer Squash, Baby Beetroot, red Onions in Harissa dressing and Pumpkin seeds

Roast Summer Squash, Baby Beetroot, red Onions in Harissa dressing and Pumpkin seeds

Spanakopita - crispy filo Greek style pastry , with Spinach and Feta Cheese

Spanakopita – crispy filo Greek style pastry , with Spinach and Feta Cheese

Cashew and Lemon Cheese Cake

Cashew and Lemon Cheese Cake

Silvena's 'Velvet' Raspberry Cheesecake

Silvena’s “Velvet” raspberry cheesecake

Rich Chocolate Ganache Tart & Maca powder dust

Rich Chocolate Ganache Tart and Maca powder dust